A new year, another opportunity to reflect and look forward. Admittedly I would have found this kind of task cheesy, cliché and something I simply didn’t want to do only a few years ago. In that short time what I have learned, from reading authors like Seth Godin and Austin Kleon is that goal setting – the hyper-specific, actionable, measurable kind – is extremely important to getting things done and making progress in the world.
My romantic partner of one-and-a-half years (who is now also my business partner) is someone who reflects and sets goals. She is also someone who gets stuff done. When she sent me a list of twelve reflection questions – six for the past year, six for the year to come – I decided to give them their due attention.
Below are the twelve questions and my answers. I submit these below as both encouragement to you to do this yourself and also as a way to keep myself accountable. I encourage you to share your own answers, post lists on your wall for others to talk about, and even direct some questions to me. The more encouraging and accountable we are to each other, the better.
So, in the spirit of accountability I will begin with my list of goals from last year and point out which ones I am still working on:
- Publish/print a chapbook of Poetry -Started working on this, still not done.
- Publish episodes of “Tiny Conversations” – Started this podcast and am super proud. You can listen here.
- Start photography project involving people who have been sexually assaulted – I still haven’t found an idea that is appropriately respectful. I did make a 3-minute audio documentary. (Listen here – TRIGGER WARNING)
- Apply for an arts residency – Applied to a few – rejected by all.
- Record an album of music – I did the score for my partner’s short film – I don’t entirely count this.
- Back squat 300lbs – I can squat 210lbs.
- Do a muscle-up – Only attempted this a few times – I was hit by a car in the summer.
- Snatch 150lbs – I improved, but still am only at 120lbs.
- Do an art installation involving sound – Nope!
- Read at least 50 books – I think I read 5 (sad)
- Start a dream journal – I didn’t write down a single dream.
OK, so now here are the twelve reflection questions
1. What went well? Identify the goals you accomplished or advanced towards; and anything else that went well and is worth acknowledging.
- I started Porch Light – a new company – with my Partner and best friend.
- I moved in with my partner.
- I successfully pitched a radio program that will air on CBC in the new year.
- I launched my first email campaign – for One Thousand Dates (click here to signup)
- I went on a cross-province Road Trip for Auto Share with my partner.
- I launched my podcast Tiny Conversations.
- Saw Miley Cyrus.
- Went to NYC to see Lilly Allen and Godzilla.
- Got almost naked on camera for Kevin Drew’s music video with my partner.
- Started blogging about coffee for Parachute Coffee.
- Went on Metro Morning to talk about coffee.
- Displayed Disposable at inaugural year of Open Streets TO.
- Shot a Documentary and Short Film with my partner.
- Competed in 24 Hour Radio Race.
- Played in 10 year anniversary concert with Durham Youth Orchestra
- Competed in 2014 Crossfit Open. Coached a team.
- CBC Beetle Roadtrip Sessions Won a Canadian Screen Award.
- Guest Hosted on CBC Radio 3.
- Packers game in Buffalo – First real (and totally amazing) tailgating experience.
- Recorded my first original pieces of music and hear them in the score of a film.
2. In what ways did you grow and evolve in the ‘evolution of you’? How were you tested or challenged, and how did you grow as a result? What new skills, knowledge, ideas and have made you better or different from the beginning of the year?
I think this year I became a lot more conscious of my emotions and how I react to things. There were a lot of challenging moments between myself and my Partner and that really forced me to ask, “Why am I acting this way?” I realized that I need organization and routine and that when I am confused or overwhelmed I can become upset and that this is not anyone’s fault. I learned to better embrace my emotions, state what is going on, and act in a responsible way where I don’t blame others for my feelings.
I am still struggling with displaying my work and accepting the possibility of rejection. I notice this most in my hesitation to pitch radio ideas. I slowly am beginning to overcome this by pitching my ideas and will continue to work on this in 2014.
I also realized that I do not want to work for other people, as I find this puts constraints on my creativity. I love collaboration and will continue to try to work with other people. Working at an advertising agency showed me that I crave environments where you can adapt quickly and make up the rules as you go along. Starting Porch Light will let me run a company with my partner the way we want.
3. What were your favorite moments of the year past? Savouring positive experiences gives you the opportunity to replay the positive moments which is a proven strategy to boost your “positivity muscle” leading to more optimism, resilience and mojo – all essential ingredients to personal and professional wellbeing. Go ahead – indulge and enjoy them again.
I was really happy to be guest hosting on CBC Radio 3. It felt so amazing to hear my voice on the radio. I think my ability to write a script and read naturally improved considerably and I was happy to have made this improvement.
Travelling around the province for AutoShare really pushed my social media and storytelling skills. I love social media and this trip really forced me to focus on how I was telling a story through photos.
Doing the 24 Hour Radio race was a challenge in putting myself and my work out in the public sphere. I was terrified to enter and at moments, during the 24 hours, felt like giving up. But, once I was done, I felt incredible. The feedback I received from the people I interviewed was the best reward I could receive.
I think my relationship with my partner grew a lot stronger. We seem like much more of a team. We did a lot of projects together this year and I am so happy to be with someone that both challenges and encourages me. Doing creative things with her feels far less intimidating. I got to work on her first short film and watch it be completed. We also launched our first company and witness our first sales.
4. What do you need to clean-out or let go of right now from the year past to be ready to start fresh in the New Year? Consider both your physical space (your office, your home) as well as your emotional and mental mindsets.
Physically, I want the space around my desk to be more organized. I think I need to embrace and tackle this in 2014. I also need to accept my two major injuries (bike accident and wrist sprain) as training setbacks and just continue moving forward.
Mentally, I need to accept that there will be more rejections to my radio pitches than acceptance. I need to more willingly accept failure in my life. I often hesitate out of fear that something won’t be perfect. I can see this in my radio freelancing and in Porch Light. To move forward I must accept failure as a learning tool.
5. What and who are you most grateful for right now? Consider the people in your life; the circumstances; the gifts; make this a juicy list! Practising gratitude helps fast-track you towards greater happiness, health and well-being.
- My amazing partner – she is my lover, my best friend, my collaborator and business partner.
- Where I am living – I love Toronto and think of it as my home.
- My physical strength – I am much stronger than I was before. Yes, I would like to be much stronger but I have many abilities and strengths I am grateful for. I was not this strong nor coordinated in past years and, at one point in my life, never thought I’d be half-decent at anything athletic.
- The many, many stories people have shared with me. From freelance pieces to Tiny Conversations, I am so touched by people’s willingness to share with me.
- My relationship with my family. I think it is much stronger than before.
6. If there was a theme for the past year for you, what would it be? i.e. “This was the year of ____.”
This was the year of creative expansion.
7. What do you want for the year ahead? What goals are you embracing and willing to commit to? Are these goals actionable and part of a plan? Or just wishful thinking? Make them count; make them meaningful; and make them happen!
- Pitch one radio piece a week to at least one show.
- Publish one episode of Tiny Conversations every two weeks.
- Launch an online store for Porch Light by March 2015.
- Publish my book of poetry – add or edit one poem per day.
- Record a five song EP – practice for 30 minutes every day. spend one hour recording/writing every week.
- Meditate for ten-minutes every morning
- Go to CrossFit three times a week.
8. In what areas do you need to get better organized to avoid the ‘mind full’ syndrome so you can bring your best self to your goals? Consider your daily tasks as well as longer term priorities? How will you make sure you get your vast amount of ‘to do’s out of your head but maintain a top-of-mind awareness of key priorities? How will you manage your crazy schedule? What boundaries and structures will you put in place to manage your time more effectively and meaningfully?
- Write a weekly schedule that is the same for each week, breaking my tasks and routines into parts that have specific timelines.
- Create routines and habits that are small and actionable items. Stick to these. Don’t get bothered if I miss one or two.
- Meditate in the morning and then go over my daily schedule. Adapt and prioritize where necessary.
9. How will you tame the multitasking beast and add more focus and flow to your days? Sure, life is busy and there’s a lot to juggle. But science tells us that our brains aren’t built for certain kinds of multitasking. In fact, we are depleting our energy and compromising our best ‘brain-ability’. Our brains need some time for focus and flow. Give it some and you will be rewarded with a greater sense of ease, energy and ‘brain-ability’ to tackle the loads more effectively.
Some things I’ve done this year I want to keep doing:
- Check email only twice per day.
- Review my schedule in the morning, make a list of to-do items.
- Focus on one-task at a time.
- Meditate in the morning.
Some things I want to start doing this year:
- Add specific times to my tasks (i.e. 1 hour for this).
- Keep a weekly schedule of items that I have to do every week.
- Do social media once per day, in the evening.
10. What inner critics need to be acknowledged and then invited to take a back seat this year in order for you to tap into your more essential self that will empower you to flourish? We all have parts of ourselves that limit our greatness – if we allow them to. We can’t quiet our inner critics if we don’t notice them. What voices need to be noticed and quieted this year? What empowering voices from within yourself will you listen to more intently – e.g. your voice of trust? Wisdom? Experience? Courage?
I need to embrace that growth also means failing. Seth Godin calls this fear the “lizard brain”. Samuel Beckett said, “fail better,” – which I believe means embracing failure as a learning tool. I plan to do this more in 2015. I’ve realized that when it comes to things that really matter to me – radio production, music, Porch Light – I am terrified to “get it wrong.” When really, “getting it wrong” is not trying and not putting my work into the public sphere. I said I would do this in 2014 and definitely did. 2015 I will do this more.
11. How will you boost your positivity ratio? Research in the science of positivity has proven that those who practice robust positivity habits enjoy greater success and tend to be more apt to stretch higher and reach more of their goals. They also experience greater well-being physically, mentally and emotionally. How much positivity makes the difference? The ideal ratio is a minimum of 3 positive thoughts to one negative thought. Scaling back negativity is one way to achieve that and ramping up authentic positive micro moments is another. What will you commit to practicing in the year ahead?
I believe I can do this with two things – meditation and acknowledging my accomplishments. The first will become actionable by meditating for ten minutes every morning. The second will be made actionable by keeping a journal where I write down three things I am happy I did that day, every night.
12. How will you ensure you get enough quality sleep this year? Lack of quality sleep has become a problem for too many people. Ample zzzs are imperative for our brains and bodies to operate most effectively. Lack of sleep combined with excessive stress, poor mood is a recipe for poor performance and ‘bye bye thinking capacity – hello brain freeze’. It’s time to wake up to the issue of not enough sleep!
I will read for ½ hour before I go to sleep every night, to avoid looking at a screen. I will go to sleep by midnight every night and wakeup at 8am.
BONUS Q: If the year ahead is to have a personal theme for you, what would that be and what word or phrase best embodies this theme? i.e. “This will be the year of ____.”
This year will be the year of embracing my fears.
Good luck with your reflection questions and have a Happy New Year! If you want to keep track of my progress – my successes and failures – and that of my partner, you can subscribed to our newsletter One Thousand Dates.